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Timothy Olmsted, St. Paul Teacher Accused Of Discriminating Against Black Students, Sees Case Move To Federal Court
Sep-13-2012 550 0


Heights Community School parents have filed a lawsuit that is now moving to federal courts against the St. Paul Public School District in Minnesota, amid an investigation into allegations that teacher Timothy Olmsted discriminated against black students.

Olmsted resigned after the district placed him on paid leave in the spring after parents complained that he called black students "fat, black and stupid" and told them, "you will never amount to anything" and "you only have one parent.

The teacher also allegedly forced black students to sit in the back of the classroom, or sit with their desks facing the wall.

"He told the whole entire class that it is easier for him to teach rich white folks than poor black people," Tolbert told reporters.

Olmsted resigned in March, but is still being paid through the first week of October, and parents are dissatisfied. He is also not facing disciplinary action due to the resignation.

In the suit, parents claim that the district failed to protect their children from Olmsted, the Star Tribune reports. Latasha Tolbert, mother of 12-year-old Jamia Ware, said she made nearly 100 calls to school officials in the fall regarding Olmsted's classroom behavior, but the no one acted until January.

District representatives, however, tell the Star Tribune that an investigation was launched promptly and all complaints against the teacher were addressed immediately. Olmsted's attorney notes that the teacher "denies any improper conduct and believes that the claims against him are baseless."

But the educator has a record of controversy. The St. Paul School District reported in 2002 that Olmsted gave a sixth grade girl a birthday card with sexual innuendos, and requested that she read it to the class. He was also accused of giving a graphic description of castrating horses and throwing testicles into a field to feed cats.

For the various incidents over the years, disciplinary actions against him have ranged from written reprimands to days of suspension without pay. Students also find his more recent, racial comments strange.

"He would say random things like when I get out of the shower my dog dries me off," student Aylecia Ingram-Jones told reporters in a separate report.

Her father, Miguel Jones, has moved the teen to another school district, and asserts that there should be no question about whether Olmsted should be allowed to keep teaching.

"I wouldn't stand for it," Jones said. "Right is right. Wrong is wrong."

Minnesota does not have statewide regulations regarding disciplinary action for teachers, so process is followed based on district decisions and as outlined in teachers' union contracts.

The allegations in St. Paul are similar to complaints against Kathleen Pyles, a math teacher at North End Middle School in Waterbury, Conn., who was placed on paid leave in June while officials investigate claims that she addressed a black student with a racist remark.

Parents have accused Pyles of inappropriately calling a student "black boy" when she couldn't remember his name. When she first called the boy by the wrong name, he pointed out her mistake. So she responded, "How about black boy? Go sit down, black boy."

Parents are calling for her dismissal.

In another incident in March, a Virginia high school English teacher allegedly asked the only black student in the class to read a poem in a "blacker" manner.

Jordan Shumate, a ninth-grader at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Va., says he was reading aloud Langston Hughes' "Ballad of the Landlord" when teacher Marilyn Bart interrupted him.

"She told me, 'Blacker, Jordan -- c'mon, blacker. I thought you were black,'" Shumate told The Washington Post.

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Breanna Edwards Aug-27-2015 70 0
A Michigan man who robbed a local credit union reportedly did so in a desperate attempt to help pay for his daughter’s chemotherapy, according to authorities, ABC News reports.

Brian Randolph, 23, is accused of entering the Vibe Credit Union in South Lyon earlier this month, and passing a note demanding money. The note said that he had a gun hidden in his clothes, but Randolph reportedly never showed a firearm and, according to the authorities, did not actually have a gun with him.

The young father has been charged with armed robbery. His bond was set at $500,000.

According to ABC News, Randolph’s troubles began when his insurance company reportedly stopped paying for his daughter’s chemotherapy treatment. Brialynn, who is one, has retinoblastoma, a cancer that forms in the eye, and needs treatment, that costs thousands of dollars, every four weeks, the site notes.

Randolph told the authorities that it was a last-ditch attempt to get money for Brialynn’s upcoming session.

"I guess it was desperation. Time was ticking right before her actual appointment came up," Brialynn’s mother, Asia Dupree told WXYZ-TV. “This was after the insurance was cancelled…[We] kept calling. No answer. Voicemails. No answer. No callbacks.”

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DARLENE SUPERVILLE Aug-27-2015 104 0
Walking door to door in a city reborn after tragedy, President Barack Obama says New Orleans is moving forward a decade after Hurricane Katrina. He offered the city as an example of what can happen when people rally to build a better future after suffering a devastating blow.

The president's first stop on a visit marking the storm's 10th anniversary was Treme, one of the oldest black neighborhoods in America and an area that experienced significant flooding during Katrina. A cheering crowd welcomed him to an area where homes inundated by the storm have been rebuilt.

As the president went from house to house, he chatted with residents, calling out, "How you doing?" and, "We appreciate you."

Reflecting on the improved surroundings, Obama declared, "The fact that we can make this many strides 10 years after a terrible epic disaster, I think, is an indication of the kind of spirit we have in this city."

It was an informal version of the broader message Obama planned to deliver later at a newly opened community center in the Lower 9th Ward, one of the hardest-hit areas of the city and one that is still struggling to recover.

"Not long ago, our gathering here in the Lower 9th might have seemed unlikely," Obama said in speech excerpts released in advance by the White House. "But today, this new community center stands as a symbol of the extraordinary resilience of this city and its people, of the entire Gulf Coast, indeed, of the United States of America. You are an example of what's possible when, in the face of tragedy and hardship, good people come together to lend a hand, and to build a better future."

"That, more than any other reason, is why I've come back here today," said Obama, making his ninth visit to the city. He also visited on the hurricane's fifth anniversary in 2010.

The president stopped for lunch in Treme with some local young men at Willie Mae's corner restaurant, apparently a return visit. Obama noted that on his last visit, he didn't have the fried chicken.

Obama was a new U.S. senator when Katrina's powerful winds and driving rain bore down on Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005. The storm caused major damage to the Gulf Coast from Texas to central Florida while powering a storm surge that breached the system of levees meant to protect New Orleans from flooding.

Nearly 2,000 people died, most in New Orleans. Eighty percent of the city was flooded for weeks. One million people were displaced.

In his planned speech, Obama said Katrina helped expose structural inequalities that long plagued New Orleans and left too many people, especially minorities, without good jobs, affordable health care or decent housing and too many kids growing up in the midst of violent crime and attending inefficient schools.

Ten years out from Katrina, the rebirth underway in New Orleans has been helped by billions of dollars in federal recovery money, much of it funneled to the city under Obama's watch. The city has recovered much of its pre-storm population, new businesses are opening faster than the national average and better flood protection plans are in place.

Still, income inequality and rising crime rates are among the challenges that remain in a place Mayor Mitch Landrieu calls "America's comeback city."

Obama says acknowledging the loss and pain Katrina caused is important, "not to harp on what happened, but to memorialize it."

"We do this not in order to dwell in the past, but in order to keep moving forward," he says. "Because this is a city that slowly, unmistakably, together, is moving forward."

Obama says the rebuilding was not simply to restore New Orleans as it had been. "It was to build a city as it should be — a city where everyone, no matter who they are or what they look like or how much money they've got has an opportunity to make it."

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama would stress that the federal government and communities need to start investing in "resilience" so that they will be ready for the more intense storms and wildfires that a warming planet will bring.

"There's no denying what scientists tell us, which is that there's reason to be concerned about these storms getting worse and more violent," he told reporters.

Obama's plan to sound a fresh alarm about climate change didn't sit well with Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican waging a long-shot bid for his party's presidential nomination who told the president that the anniversary is a time to mourn the loss of loved ones, not espouse "the divisive political agenda

"A lecture on climate change would do nothing to improve upon what we are already doing," Jindal told Obama in a letter Wednesday. "Quite the opposite; it would distract from the losses we have suffered, diminish the restoration effort we have made and overshadow the miracle that has been the Louisiana comeback."

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MELISSA CHAN Aug-26-2015 235 0
The gunman who fatally shot a Virginia TV news reporter and cameraman during a live broadcast Wednesday was a former model and "high-paid companion" before he turned into a disgruntled former employee.

Vester Lee Flanagan II, who went by his on-air name Bryce Williams, had tweeted several revealing photos last week showing his glory days during his earlier acting and modeling career.

“Headshot used for getting acting/modeling gigs back when lol,” the 41-year-old wrote on Aug. 20. “And, wasn’t I a cute baby?”

“Hell yeah I’ve been a high paid ‘companion.’ You wish u could too!! Lol," he said in another tweet.

The series of photos, including one of his “sexy bedroom,” came to an end Wednesday when the former WDBJ correspondent used the account to live tweet his fatal war path.

Flanagan airs out his gripes against WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, who he accused of making bigoted remarks when they were colleagues.

"Alison made racist comments," he tweeted. "EEOC report filed...They hired her after that???...Adam went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!...I filmed the shooting see Facebook."

He also posted a chilling video showing the moment he walked up to Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, pointing a gun at their heads before his account was suspended.

Flanagan joined WDBJ in 2012 as a multimedia journalist and general assignment reporter. He was fired in Feb. 2013 for unknown reasons.

WDBJ-TV president and general manager Jeff Marks said Flanagan had a “reputation for being difficult to work with” and needed to be escorted out by police when he was given the boot.

“Vester was an unhappy man,” Marks said during the station’s noon broadcast. “Eventually, after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. And he did not take that well.”

Flanagan said on Twitter he had filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He also sent a 23-page fax to ABC News, the media outlet said.

The outraged journalist had sued a local NBC affiliate in 2000 claiming producers and managers made racist remarks about blacks and fired him for complaining about it, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Flanagan claims he and another black employee were referred to as "monkeys." A supervisor, he said, also once said "blacks are lazy and do not take advantage of free money," according to the Democrat.

Flanagan said on Twitter he had filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He also sent a 23-page fax to ABC News, the media outlet said.

The outraged journalist had sued a local NBC affiliate in 2000 claiming producers and managers made racist remarks about blacks and fired him for complaining about it, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Flanagan claims he and another black employee were referred to as "monkeys." A supervisor, he said, also once said "blacks are lazy and do not take advantage of free money," according to the Democrat.

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Julia Jenaé Aug-26-2015 116 0
The attorney for a seventeen year old who was shot several times by a police officer in Longview said his client is in the hospital and not under arrest as of Tuesday evening.

Joshua Thomas was shot around 3:45 a.m. on Tuesday as he was leaving This Our Store on Mobberly Avenue. Surveillance video from the store shows Thomas turning a corner before police confronted him. Seconds later, the video shows Thomas fall to the ground after one of the officers opens fire.

Longview police say the officer shot Thomas because he started to pull out what appeared to be a handgun. Authorities later discovered it was a CO2 pistol. Police say officers were responding to a report of suspicious activity.

Read More: Longview police: Three officers on leave after shooting

This Our Store owner, Huey Smith, was inside his 24-hour store when he said he heard Thomas try to tell police the gun was not real.

"I did hear [Thomas] say, 'I'm trying to put it down, I'm trying to put it down,'" said Smith. "Then there were just a lot of shots and [an officer] said, 'I told you to drop it,' and [Thomas] said, 'I was dropping it, it's fake, it's not real."

Smith said he believes the disturbance that officers were responding to involved an incident between a couple across the street from his store.

Police said in a press release that Thomas was transported for non life threatening injuries. Thomas' attorney, Daryll Bennett said he is surprised his client survived the shooting.

"He's hurt pretty bad, I think he's got six shots in him, two of them right in the chest, and he's still alive," said Bennett. "So far, [police have] told him he hasn't been arrested for anything, but when they put him in the ambulance, he was handcuffed behind his back and laying flat on the gurney, and [officers] wouldn't take the handcuffs off."

Family members said Thomas is stable, but will require at least one surgery to remove a bullet lodged near his heart.

Though police and family members confirmed that Thomas was transported to and is being treated at Good Shepherd Hospital in Longview, hospital officials say they have no record of the teenager being a patient.

A Good Shepherd supervisor said due to legal reasons, the hospital has to say that there is no one on record named Joshua Thomas.

Officer Kristie Brian with the Longview Police Department said the hospital's 'no record' response is not due to the police investigation.

Brian also said that the three officers were not wearing body cameras. The Texas Rangers have joined the investigation into the shooting.

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Nick Schwartz Aug-26-2015 127 0
Coach Otis Newell, a former defensive coordinator at Simi Valley High School in California, was fired from his job after a fellow coach found a music video for the song “U Need It, I Got It,” in which Newell appears to sell drugs out of an ice cream truck.

Newell says that the video was simply meant to show how he used football to escape drug use and gang violence.

Via the L.A. Times:

“I just think this just went way too far, way too fast. It’s a depiction of pretty much how I grew up, and there’s no secret that in the city where I come from, drugs and gang violence were everyday parts of my life.”

In an email Newell shared with KTLA, the Simi Valley Unified School District stated that it was not questioning Newell’s character, but “cannot support” his appearance in the video.

Via KTLA:

“In an email to Newell, the district went on to state that, “Although the music video and song lyrics are not reflective of how you are currently living your life as a husband, father, or coach, the images and activities portrayed in the video are ones we cannot support.”

“Therefore, reinstating you as a football coach with Simi Valley Unified is not possible,” the email continued. “We do wish you the best of luck with your personal and professional endeavors moving forward.”

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Laurie Hanna Aug-25-2015 153 0
A teenager has been hailed a hero after helping a kidnapped woman escape from the clutches of her ex-boyfriend.

Police praised Malyk Bonnet, 17, after his quick thinking saved the woman’s life when he stayed with her until he could alert police.

Humble Bonnet initially laughed off the plaudits, but said: "Now I realize what I did and wow…it's really awesome. I mean, I saved a life!"

On August 1, Bonnet was waiting for a bus home after finishing his shift as a cook at a restaurant in Montreal when he noticed the couple arguing, reported CBC News.

The couple asked him for money to take the bus, and he agreed to get some change at a convenience store and give them some money.

Bonnet had a moment alone with the terrified woman and decided he had to help rescue her.

"My plan was to keep them in a public place, where there's a lot of people. I decided to make myself friendly with the man, so he would trust me. So I played my game," Bonnet said.

Police were already looking for the woman and described the man as “very dangerous”, said Laval police Lt. Daniel Guérin.

Guérin said the man had already been found guilty of assault and death threats against his ex-girlfriend last year, and he was under a court order to stay away from her.

Bonnet waiting for the right moment and took the couple for food in order to keep them in a public place.

After his cellphone battery had died, he pretended to go to the washroom and borrowed a phone from someone in the restaurant to call police, who arrived within minutes.

Bonnet said the abducted woman was overcome with relief and added: "She was almost crying. She was so happy, so happy not to be with him."

Police arrested the man on the spot and he appeared in court Monday on charges of kidnapping, forcible confinement and assault.

Lt. Guérin said Laval police now intend to nominate Bonnet for a provincial award for bravery and added: "He managed the situation very well and took good decisions that probably saved the life of this woman.”

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NINA GOLGOWSKI Aug-24-2015 197 0
A group of mostly African-American women are speaking out after they say they were unfairly booted off a Napa Valley Wine Train for "laughing while black."

The 11 women, part of a book club, had looked forward to their ride aboard the luxury three-hour wine-and-food train for more than a year, one of the women told The San Francisco Gate.

"We sipped wine, enjoyed each other's company…" Lisa Renee Johnson, 47, posted on Facebook Saturday while photo documenting their misadventure, which included an 83-year-old grandmother.

The fun all changed when she claims a woman, identified in a photo as white, complained that "our laughter annoyed her because this is 'not a bar.'"

"And we thought, 'um, yes it is,'" Johnson told The Gate.

None of the women were drunk, Johnson argued — something the company has agreed with.

But the women’s apparent inability to lower their voices to fellow passengers' liking forced them to undergo what Johnson called a "walk of shame" off the train once it stopped at St. Helena.

Waiting for them when they got off were police officers from the Napa Valley Railroad and St. Helena police departments, The Gate reported.

"They paraded us through 6 cars on display in front of the other guests to waiting police like we were criminals," Johnson slammed in a Facebook post. "Then they made a written public statement on social media that we verbally and physically abused other guest and staff...one word. UNACCEPTABLE!"

A spokesperson for the company, reached by the Daily News Monday, said that that since-deleted statement was erroneously posted on Facebook by a junior staff member.

While there were "several" complaints made against the women by fellow passengers about their noise level — some said to have been witnessed by members of their staff — allegations of physical abuse has not been substantiated, spokesman Sam Singer said.

"Today we are again reaching out to the book club members," Singer said while claiming failed attempts over the weekend. "We want to apologize to them about their experience."

Singer said that though they'd like to apologize for the way things were handled, the women did receive three warnings about their noise levels.

"After the third attempt, the book club was given the choice of either quieting or departing the train. They chose to leave the train," he said. "The company provided free transportation back to the station and fully refunded their trip costs."

"Incidents like this happen approximately once per month," he added.

As Johnson and the others allegedly await their formal apology, critics who got word of the women's experience through local reports and social media have taken to bashing the company on Facebook and Yelp.

The business, which boasts more than 600 Yelp reviews, still manages to cling to 3 ½ stars despite a number of recent one-star ratings by individuals, most who purely cite the recent news reports.

"This scenario is an exact example of white privilege and discrimination," one reviewer named Che A. from Oakland, Calif., posted. "Your company should be embarrassed and ashamed. I have ridden the wine train and have watched innumerable white customers laugh loudly and obviously drunk."

"My husband and I had a great experience just a few weeks ago to celebrate our anniversary. This memory has now been sullied by the treatment of 12 African American women — paying customers who were removed because of one person's (a white woman) complaint about them being too loud," Christal W. of Campbell, Calif., added.

Another woman from Seattle also posted her outrage after allegedly witnessing the scene first-hand.

"I watched in disbelief as staff harassed a group of people who were merely drinking wine and laughing. I'd like to think it wasn't a racially motivated act, but given the fact that other, non-black guests were behaving in the same way and not removed, I can only conclude that it was discrimination," Danielle S. posted.

An attempt to reach Johnson for comment was not immediately successful.

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Aug-23-2015 157 0
Prairie View students will join with family and friends of Sandra Bland in a "Walk of Solidarity" next week.

On August 25 at 4:27 p.m., walkers will meet at the City of Prairie View's City Hall, where the council will vote on a measure to rename the main thoroughfare leading to Prairie View A&M University, Sandy Bland Parkway.

The walk will depart from the Memorial Student Center on campus and proceed south one mile on University Drive to Business Highway U.S. 290 East.

The council action is the first item on the mayor's agenda. The council meeting will begin at 6 p.m.

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Greg B. Smith Aug-23-2015 179 0
Ten years ago the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina poured relentlessly into the Lower Ninth Ward, battering a struggling neighborhood of mostly poor black families.

It was, at the time, a New Orleans neighborhood of about 14,000 people. Now fewer than 3,000 people live there — a decade after most of the homes were simply washed away.

A visit there last week presented a post-apocalyptic landscape of neglect: a street grid with a house here and there, interspersed with empty lots. Only recently did the city begin to repair what’s left of the streets there. Curb cuts went in two months ago; pavement will follow.

All this, 10 years after Aug. 29, 2005, when the deluge broke through the levees and wrecked everything in its path.

But there is hope.

On Tennessee St., a newly built colony of homes has sprung up, funded by a nonprofit backed by celebrities. At Robert Green’s home, a cross lit by light bulbs shines like a beacon in the torpid night.

He lost nearly everything to Katrina. His 73-year-old mother, Joyce, died on a highway bridge and he was forced to leave her body behind. His 3-year-old granddaughter, Shaniah, drowned in the roiling black water.

And yet he has returned.

“I’m fighting the fight and we’re winning,” said Green, 60, one of the first to come back to his beloved Lower Ninth. He will tell anybody who asks that it can all be as it once was.

And he is correct — just not yet.

Ten years after Katrina, the battle of New Orleans rages on, and not all can lay claim to the spoils of victory.

The continuing struggle facing survivors here — particularly poor, black families — offers a sobering lesson.

Katrina killed 1,836, including 1,500 in New Orleans, and caused more than $108 billion in damage, far more than the $65 billion inflicted by our own Hurricane Sandy.

The city’s population of 484,000 plummeted to 230,000 immediately after, then swung back somewhat — reaching 384,000 by 2014. That includes 30,000 outsiders who’ve moved there, mostly young and white.

The road back has been particularly difficult for black residents, whose households now earn 54% less than white households. The poverty rate dropped somewhat after the storm due to the disproportionate exodus of the poor, but has surged back to its prior level — an astonishing 27%.


The number of vacant housing units doubled post-Katrina, from 26,000 in 2000 to nearly 48,000 in 2010, and the city is still trying to auction off 1,700 empty lots. Meanwhile the crime rate has hit the roof, especially in poor black neighborhoods, with a 26% spike in murders so far this year compared to the same period last year.

“What the past 10 years have told us is there’s been tremendous growth, but it’s been very uneven, particularly for African Americans,” said William Buster, director of the Mississippi and Louisiana program for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a trust that spent millions trying to help post-Katrina.

“They've not felt this economic opportunity like the white community has,” Butler said.

The Kellogg Foundation provided $12 million for immediate aid, helped steer $25 million into community rebuilding and funded an aggressive effort to find and encourage the return of tens of thousands of lower income New Orleans residents forced to relocate across the U.S.

“About 70,000 to 100,000 people were displaced,” Buster said. “They were all over the country — Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Houston.”

Katrina caused more than $108 billion in damage, far more than the $65 billion inflicted by our own Hurricane Sandy.

They tracked down 10,000, but the obstacles to return were overwhelming for many. Most simply couldn’t afford to return and had nothing to return to. This was particularly true of poor blacks who’d been born and raised in the Big Easy.

“It’s not happening the way any of us envisioned it could happen. I don’t think we could envision all the barriers,” Buster said. “It’s gotten less affordable. New Orleans had a large population of poor people and those folks just could not come back.”

The Kellogg Foundation has been examining the exodus of New Orleans’ residents.

“One of the things you find out 10 years later is there are still families that want to come back home,” Buster added.

In Treme, the drowned neighborhood made famous by the HBO series, Kermit’s Treme Mother-In-Law Lounge employs Kywa Douse, 42, who returned to her old haunts because she could not stay away.

Many residents vowed to rebuild their homes and their neighborhoods.

“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” she said, happy to be back in the neighborhood where she was raised and working at a club where the owner is the famous trumpeter Kermit Ruffins.

Named after a 1961 R&B classic song by the late Ernie K-Doe, the club went underwater during Katrina but is now fixed up and brightly repainted. In some ways it looks as if nothing happened there, including Katrina.

The effort to turn neighborhoods like Treme around has been aggressive and costly. Federal aid to Louisiana totaled $76 billion, including $19.6 billion from FEMA for initial aid, home repairs and hazard mitigation toward future storms. Some $16 billion in federal flood insurance claims was paid out, and state-programs funded by the feds account for another $12.3 billion.

The state says after 10 years, 80% of the infrastructure damaged by Katrina is fixed. Across the city last week, crews tore up streets to install drainage pipes officials hope will help prevent future disasters.

But some question whether all this effort has favored the haves over the have-nots.


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